Basketball player Victor Wembanyama during of the NBA draft on June 23, 2023.
Prague – As expected, Victor Wembanyama became the number one pick in the NBA basketball draft. The French pivot measuring 225 centimeters was chosen by San Antonio. There were no surprises in the first round: Charlotte selected winger Brandon Miller from the University of Alabama and Portland selected point guard Scoot Henderson, who played for G-League Ignite. Houston and Detorit selected Amen and Ausar Thompson with the fourth and fifth picks, becoming the highest drafted twins in history.
Originally, Ondřej was also supposed to be in the draft Hanzlík from Girona, Spain, but opted out at the last minute. Five Czechs have played in the famous overseas league so far. Vít Krejčí, who works in Atlanta, was the last to go through the draft in 2020. Even last season, Tomáš Satoranský played in the NBA, in the past Jan Veselý, Jiří Welsch and, as the first Czech basketball player, Jiří Zídek.
Nineteen-year-old Wembanyama is considered a generational talent and long ago was a clear candidate for the top spot. After winning silver medals in the French league with the Metropolitans 92, he will be given the opportunity to develop his strengths in San Antonio, which, while lacking in recent years, is otherwise one of the most successful organizations of the last 20 years. Under the leadership of veteran coach Gregg Popovich and the mentorship of Spurs legend and former No. 1 overall pick Tim Duncan, Wembanyama should grow into a future NBA star.
“I can't even describe what I'm feeling right now. It's the best feeling of my life. I've dreamed of this for so long and now it's come true,” Wembanyama said after shaking hands with league commissioner Adam Silver on stage. “I want to say to the fans Spurs that I will do my best to succeed with our club,” added Wembanyama, who played for France against the Czech Republic in Pardubice in February.
“He's got a great disposition, but also a good combination of intellect and emotion. He understands what a talent he is. He understands the hype around him and can deal with it. He can handle responsibility, so he won't need as much advice in that area,” coach Popovich said. Nevertheless, the Spurs already got him the best possible mentor in advance, which is Duncan, who went through the same situation in 1997. And at the Spurs, he grew from a great talent to perhaps the best player at position 4 in the history of the competition.
Other Spurs legends Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, who is also French, should also contribute with advice. “But the main thing is that Victor remains himself. We don't want him to be the new LeBron James or the new Duncan. He is Victor and he has to stay that way,” added Popovich.
While the first place was clear in advance , in the second position, the experts did not agree so much. Charlotte, where Czech Jakub Kudláček is also on the scout team, finally decided that it needed to strengthen mainly on the wing and pointed to Miller. He was given priority over point guard Scoot Henderson, who would have been competition for Hornets star LaMel Ball. So Henderson headed to Portland, where he will also have a rival in Damian Lillard.
There was a stir when Silver announced the Thompson brother pair at positions four and five. It was only the second time in history that the brothers finished in the top five of the draft and the first time it was in the same year. In the past, Lonzo Ball was a No. 2 pick in 2017 and his brother LaMelo Ball was a No. 3 pick three years later.
“It means a lot to our family. All the work has paid off. And it's great to be the first brothers drafted so high in a single draft. And it's amazing that I was drafted first among us,” rejoiced Amen.
Besides Wembanyama, six other European players appeared in the draft. In the seventh position, Indiana selected his Metropolitans 92 teammate Bilal Coulibaly. Other Frenchmen are Rayan Rupert to Portland and Sidy Cissoko, who will partner Wembanyam at Spurs. Washington has Serbian pivot Tristan Vukcevic, Phoenix Belgian Toumani Camara and Memphis Turk Tarik Biberovic. Satoransky's and Vesely's teammate in Barcelona, Nigerian James Nnaji, also came in 31st position.